Tuesday, June 25

The Debunker: Can a Little Bit of Seawater Stave Off Thirst?

by Ken Jennings

June is the time of year the United Nations observes World Oceans Day and the U.S. celebrates National Oceans Month, so we’ve asked Skipper Ken Jennings to navigate us through four maritime myths that refuse to die. It turns out that none of them really hold water.

Ocean Myth #4: Stranded at Sea, You Should Drink Seawater in Small Quantities.

In 1952, a French biologist named Alain Bombard decided to cross the Atlantic Ocean in a small inflatable boat almost entirely without provisions. He hoped to test theories and discover techniques that could one day save the lives of other unfortunates finding themselves, as it were, in the same boat. In particular, Bombard believed that drinking seawater could sustain life, as long as the drinker wasn’t already too dehydrated, and could limit his intake to less than a pint and a half a day.

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Tuesday, June 18

The Debunker: Did Pirates Make Treasure Maps?

by Ken Jennings

June is the time of year the United Nations observes World Oceans Day and the U.S. celebrates National Oceans Month, so we’ve asked Skipper Ken Jennings to navigate us through four maritime myths that refuse to die. It turns out that none of them really hold water.

Ocean Myth #3: Pirates Made Treasure Maps.

Of course the bloodthirsty buccaneers of the Spanish Main drew treasure maps, right? How else would they find their way back to their hard-earned booty? We can probably even picture these historical maps: one hundred paces from the beach to the skull-shaped tree, follow its shadow at noon twenty paces, X marks the spot, et cetera et cetera. Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum.

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Tuesday, June 11

The Debunker: Does the Ocean Look Blue Because It Reflects the Sky?

by Ken Jennings

June is the time of year the United Nations observes World Oceans Day and the U.S. celebrates National Oceans Month, so we’ve asked Skipper Ken Jennings to navigate us through four maritime myths that refuse to die. It turns out that none of them really hold water.

Ocean Myth #2: The Ocean Is Blue Because It Reflects the Sky.

I remember noticing as a child that a glass of water from the kitchen tap was colorless. So why were lakes and oceans blue? My parents told me that the blue color was due to the surface of the water reflecting the sky, and I believed them. Sure enough, on cloudy days (which were plentiful in Seattle, where I grew up) the lakes looked more gray than blue.

But my parents lied to me, friends—and maybe yours did too. Look at a photo of the Arctic or Antarctica: even on the grayest of days, glacial ice can have the kind of brilliant cyan blue you rarely see outside of an NBA jersey from the 1990s. The fact is that water is not colorless.

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